Fishy business & chilling with the bulbs..

Posted March 25th, 2013 by Rob Bob : )»

Well, better late than never so here goes : D»
Have had a very flat out week here with computer issues, end of term testing & a bit of a pressing issue to deal with in the aquaponics.. Luckily there has not been a lot of work needing to be done in the patch with the first round of winter seedlings already in & the next round of seeds not due to do be planted out for a week or 2.. I was planning to tackle the hoop house extensions but that just wasn't to be unfortunately..

Aquaponics update...
We have had a few issues with the aquaponics of late.. There have been climbing rates of nitrites, a product of the filtering process, over the past few weeks that could of proven to be toxic to the fish.. As the fish are a month or so from being ready to harvest it would of been devastating to lose them at this stage..

What has caused this "spike" in nitrite levels is the steady build-up of fish waste that has been sitting in the bottom of the grow beds.. As there is not a lot of oxygen in the bottom of the beds some spots tend to go anaerobic.. This means that the bacteria that help out converting the waste into fish friendly nutrients need to get oxygen from somewhere else.. They end up taking it from the nitrates leaving the toxic nitrites to contaminate the water..

This is one subject that I have not seen mentioned on the aquaponics forums (probably looking in the wrong spots) so sort of took me by surprise.. A very friendly local chap with over 15 years experience in the commercial aquaculture game gave me a few pointers & told me that the solid fish waste building up in the beds was probably the cause, so I went about cleaning out the grow beds..
As you can see on the right side of the picture, the muck that was stirred up during the cleaning process was rather thick & brown.. The smell of this muck wasn't particularly pleasant either I must add :S»

I ended up using about 1200 litres of water during the clean out but none of it went to waste.. The first few flushes went on top of the soil garden beds to give the plants a nice feed & the cleaner water of the later flushes was used to top up the wicking beds.. I hadn't filled the wicking beds up over the past week & a bit, knowing that I would have some waste water to use up..

I have only cleaned out 1 of the large grow beds so far & will be tackling the other 2 over the next few weeks if I think they need it..
I would like to say that the fish were very appreciative of the whole cleaning process but their emotions can be very hard to read sometimes..
So I shall just keep trying to win them over with hugs & daily walks..

Over the weekend I made up a clip showing a bit of an overview of how the whole system is set up & runs..
I have missed a few bits out but they will be included in other clips over the next few months..

Planting out the garlic...
While last year's garlic crop has been the best to date for us I think our growing methods could improve a bit more.. A few different lots of garlic will be planted out this year so experiments can done to see if one method works better than another..

I have done a bit of reading up on the growing garlic in warmer areas & found one trick that has been used by growers around the world that looks like it might help us get a better crop.. The process is called vernalisation & involves bulbs, seeds or seedlings being chilled for a period of time to help growth & vigour.. I do remember family members talking about doing this to help with their spring bulbs & apparently it works just as well for garlic..
I popped these bulbs into the veggie crisper of the fridge on the 28th of February.. A lot of sites & books recommend a period of 4-8 weeks of chilling below 10°C, so our first lot have gone in 2 days early but I won't tell the garlic if you don't :X»
Not much to look at the moment are they? ;D» The 6 bulbs on the right have been planted from last year's crop that was being stored in the pantry, so have not been chilled at all.. Another lot will be planted out in 2 weeks' time to see if there will be much of a difference between a longer chill period & these cloves.. It will be interesting to see how this little experiment pans out over the coming months...

Pickings from the patch...
Due to being flat out this week we have been having a lot of quick & easy meals... Over the last week I think we have had 4 meals of stir fried eggplant, okra, beans, onion, garlic & some capsicum as a side to a portion of meat.. I did manage to mix it up one night with some fried halloumi cheese but think I need to become more innovative this week **nods**

We have been getting quite a stockpile of okra & snake beans up.. Both these plants have been very productive & we have been eating them in every evening meal over the past week..

The kang kong (water spinach) is one plant that I am very grateful of having in the garden.. We find the leaves tastier raw than cooked so have been enjoying them in a few salads.. We like to add in some lettuce, basil, Egyptian spinach, silverbeet, chopped beans & celery then top it all with nothing more than some crumbled feta & sliced sundried tomatoes.. Is very tasty & it makes for a quick healthy lunch..

I think I should try & post this before next weekend, so shall leave it here methinks ;)»
Hope to have an update on the "insect proof" hoop house next week...
Hope you all have a great one...

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